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Wildlife Sightings - May 2017

  • Sat 3rd Jun, 2017

The cold north winds at the end of April continued into the first couple of weeks of May, thankfully temperatures then started to increase with a balmy minimum of 9° on the 1st in Bridlington! The north to easterly flow then continued until the 13th when south-south westerly winds heralded a warmer second half of the month. On this day Bridlington experienced 17°. Things then got even warmer reaching an average of 26° on the 27th across Humberside in a gentle south-easterly breeze. It was a very dry month with rain on only three days in Bridlington totalling 7.3mm. The combination of dry weather, generally light winds and increasing temperatures encouraged many naturalists into the field with wonderful results…

Hawfinch Spurn © Jonnie Fisk Hawfinch Spurn © Jonnie Fisk

The great mix of lingering Arctic birds and African arrivals continued into the first week of the month. At Long Nab there were still 11 Shore Lark on the 1st (last seen on the 9th) and on the 2nd these Shore Larks could be watched whilst listening to a singing Grasshopper Warbler fresh in from Africa. Close by in Scarborough, a Turtle Dove and five Waxwings were also seen on the 2nd. The first scarce migrant of the spring on Flamborough Headland arrived at Buckton Pond on the 1st in the form of a smart Wryneck. On the same day at Spurn a ‘stonking’ Hawfinch excited bird ringers from Spurn Bird Observatory Trust. This was an excellent day for diversity at Spurn with 21 Black Tern, Garganey, Long-eared Owl, 2 Hobby and 47 Whimbrel seen.

The dry weather helped lots of butterflies emerge across the region in the first week. A great example was the count made by Butterfly Conservation volunteers at Fordon Banks on the 5th; 19 Brown Argus, 10 Dingy Skipper and seven Wall plus seven other commoner species. Not far away in the Scarborough area, Burnet Companion moths were seen at several sites on the 4th and 5th. Ten species of butterflies were also seen on Walmgate Stray close to the centre of York on the 5th proving that with the right habitat amazing wildlife can be close to our doorstep! On the 4th the first Duke of Burgundy butterflies of the year were on the wing in North Yorkshire with over 20 counted at the same site the day after. 

The first rare bird of the month was found at Spurn, a Broad-billed Sandpiper near the Warren at high tide on the 2nd. This great find was associated with an increase in waders noted the same day which included 4,000 Dunlin and 2,000 Knot! The following five days then saw Serin and the first Wryneck and Wood Warblers of the spring arrive at Spurn along with two Hen Harriers.  Waders were also on the move in other areas including Wood Sandpiper at Swinemoor alongside 10 Whimbrel. The first Dotterel of the spring arrived at Flamborough on the 5th. This bird was followed by four on the summit of Ingleborough on the 9th, four on Guisborough Moor and three at Flamborough on the 11th, two at Danby Beacon on the 12th with up to nine here on the 14th, 10 at Sunk Island on the 15th and one at Long Nab on the 16th.

An adult female Siberian Stonechat was a great find at Flamborough South Landing on the 6th, this species is very rare in the spring and the Flamborough bird is the first to be seen in the UK this year. Nearby a Wood Warbler was found singing in the woodland valley. Three Spoonbills arrived for a short stay at Filey Dams on the 7th. A juvenile Iceland Gull found at Hornsea on the 8th then became a regular sighting up to the end of the month at least. Another late staying Arctic species was a stunning male Snow Bunting in summer plumage at Spurn on the 9th a very popular bird with photographers on that day. On the same day a Waxwing spent a short time in Filey town.

Snow Bunting Spurn © Adam HuttSnow Bunting Spurn © Adam Hutt

Yorkshire listing birders were hot off the mark on the 10th when two Black-winged Stilts turned up at Blacktoft Sands RSPB. This species is still a very rare bird in Yorkshire, although more regular now in England. This was a great day to be at Blacktoft as the female Montagu's Harrier continued to show well and remained for the rest of the month. A Minke Whale was seen off Flamborough Headland on the 10th and on the same day the first Pearl-bordered Fritillaries of the year were seen at a site in North Yorkshire. On the 11th an exploration of Wold valleys in East Yorkshire revealed three new undiscovered sites for Dingy Skipper butterflies including the Cinquefoil Brow valleys and those below Burdale North Wold. The first Hoopoe of the spring in Yorkshire graced fields near Long Nab on the 11th.  Painted Lady numbers appear to be doing well and they were increasing noticeably towards the end of the month. One of the first was was seen in a Holderness garden on the 12th, are they early migrants or are they now overwintering? Two Temincks Stint arrived at Blacktoft RSPB on the 12th the first of our spring and a Grey-headed Wagtail at Spurn on the same day. Spurn scored a day later with the first Bee-eater of the year on the 13th at the famous ‘Numpties’ migration watch point. Also on the 13th a fabulous male Montagu’s Harrier showed well at Sunk Island. 

Cistus Forester North Yorkshire © Dave O'Brien Cistus Forester North Yorkshire © Dave O'Brien

Moth numbers were doing well and building up mid-month. 107 individual moths of 39 species were caught in Kilburn Woods VC62 on the 13th including the rare Yorkshire micro-moths Zellaria hepariella and Ethmia quadrillella. On the 18th a Cistus Forester was found in VC62, this vivid green moth is still fairly rare in our region and local even further south, its association with limestone and Common Rock-rose may mean there are more sites to be found… Another beautiful moth the Birch Mocha was caught by the Scarborough moth team in Broxa forest. This delicate Geometrid is very uncommon in our region. On the same memorable night a Welsh Wave was also caught by the same team, this is another very scarce Yorkshire moth.

Black-browed Albatross at Bempton © Joe Fryer Black-browed Albatross at Bempton © Joe Fryer

Back on the bird front, a small number of Common Crane sightings mid-month kicked off with one over Nosterfield on the 8th, Fylingdales on the 11th, Burton Riggs nature reserve near Scarborough on the 13th and Beverley on the 18th. Bird find of the month prize goes to Joe Fryer age 12; on the 13th he photographed an adult Black-browed Albatross (BBA) at Bempton RSPB! This bird is most likely the same Albatross which has been summering on Heligoland Island for several years and occasionally fancies a holiday across the North Sea in Yorkshire, hopefully not the last time this summer! The BBA was then seen again on one or two days by surprised visitors at the reserve before arriving back on Heligoland on the 18th. A probable Red-throated Pipit flew over the cliffs at Saltburn on the 14th and there were still four Shore Lark at Marske-by-the-Sea on the 15th. A Golden Oriole at Spurn on the 16th was the first of the year in Yorkshire. Quail started appearing from mid-month or should I say hearing! One was heard at Gristhorpe on the 16th and thereafter they were reported from several sites.  A Great-white Egret was then found at Flamborough on the 16th, the day after what must have been the same bird arrived at Harwood Dale for several days. A Serin was a great find at Flamborough on the 17th. Back in the Scarborough area on the 18th another Hoopoe was found in the grounds of Ravenhall Hotel at Ravenscar. This obliging bird stayed several days to the delight of many observers. A Tawny Pipit graced Long Nab for a short period on the 19th. At the same site a Red Kite flew over and a Bottle-nosed Dolphin was seen offshore.

Attention was then back on Flamborough Headland on the 20th with a close Temmincks Stint at Thornwick Pools and a Golden Oriole briefly at South Landing. On the same day Spurn had their fourth Red-rumped Swallow of the spring and a putative Iberian Chiffchaff caught and ringed with DNA the only way to tell if it really was one… May is one of the first months of the spring to look out for Orchids and there were a few reports of Southern Marsh and Early Marsh Orchids at Askham Bog. At Top Hill Low on the 19th Early Marsh Orchid was in flower and good numbers of Fly Orchids were found on the 25th north of Pickering. On the 21st Spurn recorded a new macro moth, this is a very rare event as moths have been caught here since 1980. The Chocolate Tip is well named due to the chocolate brown wing mark; amazingly a second was caught in the same area the following night! A Glossy Ibis flew through North Cave YWT on the 20th and almost as rare for this reserve was a summer plumaged Turnstone on the 21st. Red-breasted Flycatchers are normally very rare migrants in the spring so Flamborough Headland has done very well with three so far including one caught and ringed at Buckton on the 21st. On the same day a Yellow-browed Warbler was seen briefly at Grimston.

Fly Orchid North Yorkshire 2017 © Richard BainesFly Orchid North Yorkshire 2017 © Richard Baines

The second Bee-eater of the month was found flying through Long Nab on the 22nd. On the same day a White Stork was seen over Elvington. A Small Yellow Underwing moth was found at Walmgate Stray, York on the 23rd and on the same day another naturalist discovered good numbers of these attractive moths in her garden meadow in Whitby. Inland the Small Blue colony in VC62 is counted each year and 18 were found there on the 25th 

The final week of May can be great for scarce migrant birds especially when high pressure on the continent reaches the UK; these conditions can also bring a surge of emerging and migrant insects. Hummingbird Hawk-moths are fairly scarce in the spring but the end of May this year, the weather conditions brought a flurry of records.  A distinct small arrival appeared to happen in the last week with one of the first to be reported well inland at Leven Canal on the 25th. A Hairy Dragonfly at North Cave Wetlands on the 26th was new for the reserve and a day later Spurn had their first on the 27th. These dragonflies may well be continental migrants especially as they were in good company as seven Red-veined Darters werealso at Spurn on the 27th. Back in Kilburn Woods on the 26th another great haul of moths this time approximately 400 individuals of 60 species the macro highlight being four Bloomers Rivulets. In Boltby Forest on the same day, Argent and Sable were found to be on the wing.

Scalloped Shell © John Gunn Scalloped Shell © John Gunn

One the scale of beautiful moths Scalloped Shell must be up there with the best, one was found by a sharp observer at North Cave YWT on the 29th. A Brown Argus at South Landing Flamborough on the 30th was a very good local record. On the same day a Clouded Magpie was found at Ellerburn Bank, a very smart and distinctive species, this individual was typically found during the day resting on the upper side of a leaf. On the 31st May a regionally rare Small Purple Barred was found at Fen Bog. Remaining in VC62 and in the North York Moors National Park, a Small-pearl bordered Fritillary was seen in Dalby Forest on the 31st the same date as the first of the year in 2016, amazing precision!     

Purple Barred North Yorkshire © Nicky Wearmouth Purple Barred North Yorkshire © Nicky Wearmouth

Spurn was then the place to be for the final week of bird migration. After a Red-rumped Swallow in Easington on the 23rd and a locally rare Cetti’s Warbler found singing near Kilnsea on the 24th it was all eyes on the sky from the 25th... Two Red-rumped Swallows moved south on the 25th followed by a Pallid Swift on the 26th. Winds on that day then turned south-east prompting a mini invasion of Red-footed Falcons! The first was found on the evening of the 27th followed by an amazing four separate birds passing ‘Numpties’ on the 28th! The supporting cast wasn’t too bad either with Alpine Swift, yet another Red-rumped Swallow, Spoonbill, Red Kite and seven Hobby! North of Spurn there were up to three Red-footed Falcons seen; a female at Long Nab on the 27th and later in the day from Wykeham view point and a first summer male spent the afternoon and following morning at Hornsea Mere. This hectic month ended with great raptor optimism as the first Honey Buzzard of the summer in the Great Yorkshire Forest seen from Wykeham view point.

Male Red-footed Falcon Spurn © Tim Jones Male Red-footed Falcon Spurn © Tim Jones

Richard Baines YCN

This article covers North and East Yorkshire. For more wildlife sightings visit these great local, regional and national web sites

Spurn Bird ObservatoryFlamborough Bird ObservatoryFiley Bird Observatory and GroupNorthern Rustic blogspot Yorkshire Naturalists UnionYorkshire Wildlife TrustScarborough BirdersButterfly Conservation Yorkshire Branch  Yorkshire Nature Traingle  For National News: Birdguides